Thoughts for February 13 from Fr Willie Doyle

What I intended to imply was that I thought God had special designs on your soul and very great graces in store for you if only you will co-operate with Him in the work of your sanctification. With the record of much want of courage and generosity there is running through your life an undercurrent of earnest desire to be a saint. Not that desires alone will do the work barren desires are most dangerous to a soul, making one content with intentions only; yet without a big ardent desire nothing will be done. “If thou wilt be perfect,” our Lord once said, implying that sanctification is largely a question of good will. This, then, is the first grace you must pray for: the desire to be a saint.

COMMENT: Today’s quote from Fr Doyle fits nicely with the readings from the Ordinary Form of the Mass for the 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time.

The central theme of Fr Doyle’s quote today is the importance of the will. We must want to be saints. If we don’t want it, it won’t happen. The same principle applies in every aspect of life. If we don’t want to lose weight, it won’t happen. If we don’t want to work hard and progress in our career, it won’t happen. The same principle applies to all aspects of our life.

The First Reading from Ecclesiasticus tells us tells us:

If you wish, you can keep the commandments; to behave faithfully is within your power. He has set fire and water before you; put out your hand to whichever you prefer. Man has life and death before him; whichever a man likes better will be given him.

Whichever we prefer will be given to us. Either holiness or apathy or sinfulness. Which is it to be?

Of course, our secular culture does not accept this distinction. For some, holiness, and faith itself, is ridiculous. For others, it is impossible. As St Paul says in the Second Reading:

We have a wisdom to offer those who have reached maturity: not a philosophy of our age, it is true, still less of the masters of our age, which are coming to their end.

And then we have today’s Gospel, which is a continuation of the sermon on the mount. It’s one of those tough, uncompromising statements on the moral law, and the necessity of our adhering to it. We have a choice – we can either go along with what is comfortable, or else put aside all of those distractions that lead us into sin.

If your right eye should cause you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; for it will do you less harm to lose one part of you than to have your whole body thrown into hell. And if your right hand should cause you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; for it will do you less harm to lose one part of you than to have your whole body go to hell.

Fr Doyle himself occasionally felt the same lack of desire for holiness. Referring to the Three Classes of men in the Spiritual Exercises, Fr Doyle wrote in 1907:

The example of men of the Third Class in the world should shame me. What determination, what prolonged effort, what deadly earnestness, in the man who has determined to succeed in his profession! No sacrifice is too great for him, he wants to succeed, he will succeed. My desire, so far, to be a saint is only the desire of the man of the First Class. It gratifies my pride, but I make no real progress in perfection — I do not really will it.

Fr Doyle’s response was to trust in God’s grace, and to take determined, small steps to overcome his weakness day by day. With God’s grace, we can follow in his footsteps.

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